COMMENTARY | The most troubling thing about the jam-packed junior middleweight class is that so few of the division's top stars are due to be in action in the first part of 2013.
WBC junior middleweight champ, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez has a May 4 date set aside, but has yet to commit on an opponent. Rumor has him looking toward the logical choice, Austin Trout, but his promoter, Golden Boy, seems to be heavily invested in looking elsewhere.
IBF titlist, Cornelius "K9" Bundrage is scheduled to defend his belt in February against the underrated and frequently overlooked Ishe Smith in a battle of former Contender reality show contestants. Smith will be entering the ring as the better-skilled fighter, despite lacking world class firepower, and should be a very live underdog.
The winner of Bundrage-Smith will then have to face the winner of the February 1 Carlos Molina-Cory Spinks world title eliminator. The blue collar Molina has been practically forced to jump through hoops to actually qualify for a world title shot. Victories over Kermit Cintron, Danny Perez, and Allen Conyers, a controversial draw with Erislandy Lara, and a putrid DQ 10 loss/robbery to James Kirkland have merely taken Molina to this title eliminator with Spinks, who is coming off a TKO 7 loss to Bundrage in his last fight.
Heavy-handed prospect, Keith Thurman, fresh off a TKO 4 win over Carlos Quintana, will be back in action in March, but don't expect main stage opposition until at least mid-2014.
Former world titlist, Yuri Foreman will return to the ring on January 23 and will try to get back in the mix at 154. The light-hitting boxer, who hasn't actually won a bout since 2009, will be in for a tough road, though. The division may have passed him by while he was rehabbing a knee injury and he will likely find himself relegated to permanent second tier status.
Demetrius Andrade-Freddy Hernandez is signed for January 25 and Dmitriy Salita-Hector Camacho Jr. will happen on February 9, but none of these fighters are on the fast track to main stage status in 2013.
The major portion of the junior middleweight division is, so far, without real direction.
"Mandingo Warrior," James Kirkland has been one of the division's more compelling performers, but is currently bogged down in some odd personal behavior which has seen him make fight-fixing allegations against his own team. As a result, Kirkland hasn't fought since last March and has nothing solid on the horizon.
Alfredo Angulo's comeback after a year-long incarceration at an immigrant detention center has been less-than-stellar. At least superficially, Angulo looks to be a significantly diminished fighter. It wouldn't be a surprise to see promoter, Golden Boy, try and push Angulo into a big ticket fight in order to cash out on his name while it's still somewhat marketable.
The Erislandy Lara-Vanes Martirosyan WBC title eliminator last November ended in a disappointing nine-round technical draw after a headbutt caused a gash over Martirosyan's left eye. Overall, the fight was a pretty dull affair and neither side has been in a rush to sign a rematch.
Austin Trout will remain in limbo until Saul Alvarez decides on a May 4 opponent. If Canelo opts to pass him by, the back-up options for Trout are fairly weak. Damian Jonak, Roberto Garcia, and Jonathan Gonzalez are the WBA titlist's highest ranked available opposition.
Miguel Cotto, who dropped a decisive unanimous decision to Austin Trout in December, will likely sit out the first half of 2013 while deciding what to do with the rest of his career. The Puerto Rican battler is a very old 32-year-old fighter and is definitely a diminished overall product. The decision will be whether to cash out with one more big fight or take some small steps back to title contention. Whatever he decides, Cotto has the name recognition and the fan base to go pretty much anywhere he wants.
Russia's Zaurbek Baysangurov still holds the WBO junior middleweight title, but is far from entering the 154 lb. fray. Expect another year of foreign-hosted defenses against marginal opposition in 2013.
Overall, the junior middleweight division is solid and could be sizzling in 2013. The pressure will be on Golden Boy, which controls the fates of most of the division's top fighters, to actually pull the trigger on some of the best fights. As of this writing, though, they have not stepped up to make those bouts.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
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